No doubt some people left Al Green’s show at Red Butte Garden complaining that the 66-year-old soul legend only played for an hour, and didn’t bother with a ridiculous, predetermined encore.
But if you look at the hour of energetic music delivered by Green and his ace band, you quickly realize there is not a thing to complain about. The man delivered about 16 songs (including a medley of cover songs), his voice sounded great, and he moved around the stage like a man half his age. Throw in Green’s steady diet of “I love you!” announced to the crowd, and his never-ending supply of roses to hand out to the adoring ladies lining the Red Butte Garden stage, and you have a stellar night of great music AND great showmanship.
Taking the stage in a tux, complete with white gloves, Green and his band brought the funk, soul and gospel with style and incomparable skill. Classic songs like “Take Me to the River,” delivered early on, and the set-closing “Let’s Stay Together” sounded as good as any fan could hope for, turning the crowd filling the amphitheatre into a big mob of backup singers. The same goes for “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart” and “Love and Happiness,” both of which were highlights of Friday’s show.
“I’m a preacher,” Green announced after the second song of the night, “but I also want you to know that we kick ass everywhere we go.”
The good reverend wasn’t lying. The man knows how to put on a show, from the theatrical way he throws off his jacket, to his James Brown-style drop to his knees while gripping the microphone stand. A three-piece horn section and a crew of backup singers that included his daughters Ruby and Cora helped fill out the classic Memphis sounds all night. But Green’s voice was clearly the focus, and he hit some stratospheric highs and delivered some seriously sexy growls that could have come straight out of Green in the ’70s.
After “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” Green launched into a medley of songs that helped “make Al Green who he is,” a stellar mini-suite that included brief forays into “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” and “My Girl” before he went into “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Tired of Being Alone.”
After an extended workout on “Let’s Stay Together,” Green was gone, disappearing into the darkness backstage while his band finished off the song. The crowd cheered a while for an encore, but the PA music came on, and soon after, so did the lights. After the hot hour of music Green delivered, it was natural to leave wanting more. Here’s hoping another visit in the near future will be just as satisfying.